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With Carmelo Anthony a better player, Knicks are at their best

New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony, right, smiles next

New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony, right, smiles next to San Antonio Spurs' Boris Diaw, of France, during the second half of an NBA basketball game. (Nov. 15, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

NEW ORLEANS -- Carmelo Anthony is used to receiving plenty of attention on the court. But the kind he's getting off the court lately is probably new to him.

Anthony's play in leading the Knicks to a 7-1 start is earning him praise for showing he can do more than score.

Former Knicks president Donnie Walsh was the latest person to acknowledge a change in Anthony before Sunday's 88-76 win over the Pacers, saying "now he's doing everything." Anthony then went out and did almost everything. He scored 26 points on a day the Knicks needed offense, grabbed nine rebounds and he defended hard.

"I think [it's] just my focus now, with the team I have," Anthony said. "To go out there and say I'm going to lead my team, I'm going to defend, I'm going to help out, I'm going to do what I have to do, I'm going to sacrifice something out there on the basketball court.

"That was my motivation -- especially coming off of last season and the season before last -- to approach this season as a new beginning for me. My focus is extremely high."

Anthony won't suddenly make the NBA's All-Defense Team or be one of the top assist men. (He had zero Sunday). But Anthony said he's a better player now than when Walsh acquired him.

He's just following the blueprint Mike Woodson put together for the Knicks this season. Everyone on the oldest team in the NBA is doing the same. Together, Anthony and his teammates are silencing doubters. "I'm not surprised," Raymond Felton said. "I knew that's the type of team we had. We're probably surprising a lot of other people because a lot of people weren't talking about us. But that was motivation for us to get after it."

The Knicks, who open a three-game trip Tuesday night against the Hornets, are dedicating themselves to sharing and taking care of the ball and playing team defense. They're committing a league-low 10.4 turnovers a game and allowing the fewest points (90.0). In their wins, the Knicks are giving up 87.9 points.

"We're keeping guys responsible," Tyson Chandler said. "It's contagious. If one guy's out of rotation, there's four guys barking at him."

Although the combined records of the teams they're playing on this trip was 13-16 heading into Monday, the Knicks' defense will be tested. The Hornets have averaged 102.8 points in their last four games -- three of them losses. The Mavericks are averaging 107.6 points at home, and the Rockets were averaging 100.5 points before Monday.

The Knicks probably will have added incentive against Houston, wanting to contain former Knick Jeremy Lin the way the Heat did in Miami in February. But the Knicks have been motivated on defense all season. "These guys are committed," Woodson said. "Guys are buying in. They understand if they do that and do it at a high level you put yourself in position to win games."


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